Posts Tagged ‘Ed Miliband’

We are exactly one year away from an American General Election that may see Barack Obama ousted as President of the United States. It is unlikely, but it is possible. There are no left-wing parties in Government in major western democracies outside of America and Australia. The last significant left-wing Government in Western Europe, that of Spain will almost surely fall in their National Elections on the 20th November two weeks from today.

The challenges for the Left in the West are immense. In recent years the Left has taken what could be generously described as an electoral hammering, and this is a trend that is unlikely to falter in the wake of the financial crisis. This crisis has undoubtedly been the biggest single challenge to face the Left since the rise of Thatcher in the UK and Reagan in the US.

In Greece, a Socialist Government is trying as hard as it possibly can to destroy the Eurozone. By putting the question of the next bailout to a plebiscite, it is likely that Greece will reject austerity and bailouts from the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund will cease. Greece will become bankrupt, and will leave the Euro. Italy, which has the second highest debt:GDP ratio in Europe (around 120%) will almost surely follow. The Italian Government is planning €47bn of cuts before 2013, when the next elections are scheduled. Meanwhile, the assortment of left wing parties in Italy embark on large anti-austerity protests and marches.

Meanwhile, what could charitably be called the “organised Left” in Britain, the Occupy London Protests are sitting outside St Paul’s Cathedral engaged in “protest”. It pains me to use that expression for what they are doing. Polling has shown that their general aims are supported by only 20% of people whilst 46% are opposed. Clearly, the 99% that the OccupyLSX protests claim to represent aren’t very keen on the idea. Ed Miliband, writing in the Observer has expressed sympathy with the protesters.

In short, words fail me at the state of the Left in Europe.

However. There is hope.

In France, the victor of the Parti Socialiste primary elections, Francois Hollande, has the best chance of any in Europe of forming a left-wing Government. It is not a finished matter. The unpopularity of the incumbent President, Nicholas Sarkozy, will not be enough to persuade the French People to elect their first left-wing government since 1988. The relative popularity of the French National Front, and their leader Marine Le Pen, are polling around 20%. The moderate Hollande also faces opposition from the hard-Left.

If the election were held today, Hollande would win 39 per cent of votes, up eight percentage points from three weeks ago, whilst Sarkozy would have 24 per cent, up three points according to French pollster LH2.

A squeeze from both the far-Right, with le Pen pushing an anti-Corporatist, anti-EU, anti-bank agenda, and from the hard-Left whose candidate polled a respectable 17% in the PS Primary. Hollande faces a tough test to make it through to the 2nd round of the election, and then beat Sarkozy or le Pen.

He must build the broadest possible coalition to defeat Sarkozy.

Francois Hollande represents the best chance that the Left have to regain a foothold in Europe.

To be successful once again, the Left must emulate the great left-wing leaders of the 20th and 21st Centuries. We should look to the Blair’s, and the Obama’s for the future of the Left. Where people’s personal finances are in danger, they will look to the Conservative alternative for a smaller state, lower taxes and fiscal credibility.

The Left should not forget that fact.

Fiscal credibility, in an age of no money for the Left to spend will be more important than ever. The State must be made more efficient, and will inevitably have to become smaller in some areas. We should set out a strict deficit reduction programme to regain the Nation’s economic trust. Francois Hollande has committed himself and his Party to reduce France’s deficit to less than 3% of GDP. We should do the same. We should set out a vision for the future, and a plan for growth in the new economy.

But. And it is a but. We should remember our achievements in Government. We introduced the National Minimum Wage. We gave record investment to schools and hospitals, and achieved record levels of literacy and numeracy in schools.We are not in the financial position that we are in because we employed too many teachers and nurses. We cut crime of all types by 32%. We devolved power to Scotland and Wales.

More importantly, we found peace in Northern Ireland. People had been searching for 400 years, and the Labour Party found it.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t apologise for our mistakes. We should say sorry. We should then say “but”. We are not sorry for our achievements in Government. We should not be sorry for our successes.

We can, should, and must do it again.

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320,000 people, or the top 1% of earners pay half of their over £150,000 income to the Treasury. Many of these people are wealthy enough that they can afford measures to legally avoid tax, or even take their bank accounts offshore.

The 50p rate of tax does not work for two reasons.

Firstly, if as the IFS reports, the top rate of tax is causing a £500m net loss to the UK Treasury.

Tax payers money, and money from those earning less than a tenth of the top rate threshold, is spent on enforcing the 50p rate of tax.

That is a potential half a billion pound loss to the Treasury.

£500m that could be spent on teachers, doctors and nurses. Money that could be spent on Sure Start, Building Schools for the Future, or a cut in VAT to help hard working families.

Secondly – The other 99% of people aspire to be part of that 1%.The 50p rate of tax is a disincentive to those who seek to grow their small business, create jobs and train young people.

Cutting the top rate of tax would stimulate growth amongst wealth creators in Britain. Profit can be a powerful motivator, and a potent tool for helping the poorest in society especially where both owner and worker receive a fair deal.

In 1997, the New Labour manifesto pledged that: “There will be no increase in the basic or top rates of income tax”.

This is a pledge that should be made by Labour once again.

By saying that Labour would not raise income tax once again, we would avoid the gesture politics that plagued the Party in the 1980s.

Other measures which are economically efficient, and raise more money for the Treasury should instead be considered. An increase in inheritance tax, combined with an increase of the threshold or a land value tax which cannot be avoided. Both of these measures would ensure that Britain remains competitive in the global economy.

Liberal Democrat President, Tim Farron said this to the Liberal Democrat Conference in Birmingham:

“Are we all in this together? Well, not if we give tax cuts to the rich!

“At a time when 90% of the country is struggling to pay the rent or mortgage, giving a 10p tax cut to those who need it the least, would not just be economically witless, it would be morally repugnant.

“Now of course, all income tax is temporary!

“Income tax was introduced as a temporary measure in 1798 during the Napoleonic wars.

“So my solemn promise to you is that we will get rid of this temporary measure, as soon as we stop falling out with the French.”

Supporting symbolic measures such as the 50p rate, which are economically inefficient and harm the UK economy is a shared by many in the Labour Party, and it is in some ways appealing.

It is not realistic.

If Labour is to prove, as in 1997, that we understand aspiration and are serious about promoting growth and jobs, and providing opportunities for all in society, we should pledge to abolish the 50p rate of tax.

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The last week has been, without doubt, the best week of the Ed Miliband’s leadership of the Labour Party. With the Government in disarray over the recent revelations of phone hacking in the News of the World, Ed has succeeded in both setting the agenda on this issue, and winning the ensuing arguments.

In Prime Ministers Questions, Ed presented himself in a new light. In thoughtful, measured questioning, which is a trademark of his style, Ed slowly caused David Cameron to disintegrate.

Mr Miliband highlighted the “immoral and disgraceful” phone hacking by the News of the World. He drew Cameron into accepting the need for a public enquiry. He forced the Prime Minister into defending the acquisition of BSkyB by News International.

Finally, the Prime Minister was forced into accepting the error of his judgment in employing Andy Coulson. “I take full responsibility” were the words of choice. Those leave David Cameron open to serious and valid criticism should Andy Coulson be found guilty of the charges on which he has been arrested.

David Cameron has also bowed to the media and public pressure on him to take a harder stance against Rebekah Brooks. Ed Miliband, by calling on Rebekah Brooks to resign from News International, has forced David Cameron to admit that he would have accepted Mrs Brooks’ resignation if it had been offered to him.

Ed has all but defeated the Government on this issue, and in doing so has harnessed public opinion to great effect. Mr Miliband may have received criticism for bringing Tom Baldwin, formally of News International onto his own staff, but there is a significant difference.

When Mr Cameron employed Mr Coulson on behalf of the Government, he was aware of some of the practices at the News of the World when it was edited by Andy Coulson. These allegations show a serious error in judgment by the Prime Minister. Alan Rusbridger also claims to have told Nick Clegg in a face to face conversation about these allegations. This raises questions into Mr Clegg’s and the Liberal Democrats claims to be the only Party to resist the entreaties of News International.

By remaining calm and collected, and pressing the Prime Minister on a serious issue, Ed Miliband has bought the full force of public opinion against David Cameron and the Conservative-led Government.

 More of the same, please.

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So here we have it; I have finally started a blog (well, actually writing it)! Writing a blog has been something that I have always wanted to do, as I feel that by writing about your political views you think about them in a much more meaningful way, and they mature and become more considered.

For my first blogpost, I want to start with some broad thoughts. For me, being active in politics is about making a difference in the world, now matter how big, or indeed small that difference may be. You should not be judged on where you come from, what background you came from, or the school that you attended. You should be judged on where you are going, and what you are going to do with your life

Indeed the change that you want to see in the world may be something that lots of people agree with; many, or even most people may disagree with you. But it is still your view, and it is precious for it. The Labour Party, both as an institution and as a set of values is something that is very important to me. The Labour Party, as a set of values grew out of the idea that by acting together we can be stronger than if we simply act alone, purely out of self interest. The “founding fathers” of our party were men like Keir Hardie and Ramsay McDonald. These were men who were guided by their principles. These are the principles that should guide us today. The Labour Party membership card has a passage from the Parties constitution. It states that :

“By the strength of our common endeavor we achieve more than we achieve alone”.

This has been a continuing theme throughout the history of the Labour Party, both in Government and in Opposition as we no find ourselves. From Party members all the way to the Shadow Cabinet and Ed Miliband it is these values which drive us. Our Party has had some of the greatest political figures in the World. Names such as Attlee, Bevan, Wilson, Gaitskill, Foot, Blair and Brown. These are all me who changed the face of Britain. Many disagree with some, or all of what they did, but they all created real change. From the National Health Service to the National Minimum Wage they started a revolution in Britain. If we did not have the NHS, we would probably have system similar to that found in America, where Healthcare is a reward, not a right. If we did not have the minimum wage people would still be earning 50p an hour.

During the 2010 election, the Conservative Party claimed to be the “Party of change”. We are the real Party of change. But we must not forget those people who entrust us with the near unlimited power that our Constitution gives to the Government. To make “change” we have to be in Government, we have to be in tune with the electorate. In 2010, we were not, as we had lost our radical edge that had swept us to power in 1997 to the strains of “Things Can Only Get Better”. After nearly two decades of Conservative Power, Britain was a country which had a shattered morale. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, between them, bought Britain back from the brink of becoming a two tiered nation. During the “Thatcher Years” people did become more wealthy. But it also divided the country, as people were seen less as Human Beings, and more as marketable assets. The Post-War Consensus – that the state should intervene in the economy, was torn up overnight as unbridled free-market control took over. This was even to the extent that some of the Tory Right wanted people to be able to sell their organs. This was clearly extreme. The market is now in control. But restrictions can be placed on it, to ensure that people are not exploited and are fairly rewarded for their labour. The lasting product of Thatcherism was that class has essentially been destroyed in this country.

A final thought – We now live in a country where it is possible for people to improve themselves. It is possible, but it is not easy. We should make it easy.

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